Search results for:
Two years after what has become known as the Arab Spring, increasingly, there is a need for a structural framework to attempt to make sense of regional developments. There are still unanswered questions, inconclusive interpretations and a tentative grasp of development and contagion. It is now clear that there will be no swift resolutions and the regions are still struggling to deal with the ramifications of the upheavals. One of those has been on the rise of political Islam to power. The Economic Research Forum’s (ERF) 19th Annual Conference debates issues around the current economic development under the rise of Islamic parties. The Islamist parties which have came to power in different countries raise different questions around their historical context, capacity to rule and the future likelihood of smooth sailing through a transition period. So, Why Did the Regional Uprisings Happen? Neither political nor economic theories have, on their own, provided satisfactorily logical explanations. There is no one signal factor for the Arab Spring, but rather a combustible mix of economic, social and political factors, according to Samer Shehata, Georgetown University. Former regimes had supplied state subsidies but these subsidies often failed to reach those who needed them most. On the political front, political rights were undermined, leading to increased repression. While the existing literature can explain the origins of regional autocracies and how they functioned, it cannot satisfactorily explain why they collapsed. Corruption, cronyism, inequality of opportunities, desire for equality, democracy, inequality of opportunities in the labor market, modernization, increased education are however, some explanations, argues Ishac Diwan, Harvard University and ERF Fellow.
The fourth and final plenary session at the Economic Research Forum's Annual Conference on Corruption and Economic Development was dedicated to granting awards to distinguished papers presented for the Conference. Abstracts and papers presented went through a highly selective screening process where a number of factors were weighed, such as topic, scope, methodology, and rigour. The paper Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due - The Firm Determinants of Recent Export Performances in Syria resulted amongst the winners. The paper has an international economics emphasis and it focuses on the role of firms in export trends in Syria. In the videos below, we caught up co-authors Rabie Nasser and Marc Schiffbauer.
تم ترجمة هذا النص بمعرفة رماج ندا تمثل محاربة الفساد في البلدان النامية تحديا، إلا أن المعلومات يمكن أن تشكل أداة قوية في الكشف عن الفساد. في البلدان الناشئة والتي تمر بمرحلة انتقالية، تكون إمكانية الحصول على المعلومات لصالح الحكومات، إلى حد كبير، أكثر من المواطنين. إن حق الحصول على المعلومات يعزز الشفافية، كما أن له دور فعال في مكافحة الفساد. ويجب أن يتم إضفاء الطابع المؤسسي على إجراءات الشفافية في البرامج السياسية بطريقة فعالة لضمان وجود إجراءات وقائية متسقة في المستقبل. ففي الدول المنتجة للنفط في الشرق الأوسط، تميل الأنظمة الاستبدادية الحاكمة إلى امتلاك عائدات واحتياطيات النفط. فوفقاً لمايكل روس، جامعة كاليفورنيا، إن ميزانيات العائدات النفطية كثثيراً ما تتصف بالغموض والسرية، غير أنه يوجد بعض الاختلافات الإقليمية، وهناك استثناءات لقاعدة السرية، وتعتبر الكويت مثال على ذلك. ولاحظ زياد بهاء الدين، عضو مجلس الشعب –مصر، أن أخطر أنواع الفساد ذلك الذي يبنى على الأسس القانونية للسياسات، وذلك خلال الجلسة الختامية للمؤتمر السنوي لمنتدى البحوث الاقتصادية الثامن عشر. وتصبح هذه المشكلة منذرة بالقلق لا سيما عندما تكون أهداف الفساد في واقع الأمر منظمة من قِبَل الهيئات التشريعية. محاربة الفساد خيار هناك أنماط مختلفة في محاربة الفساد وتعزيز الشفافية، ومن بينها المساءلة الأفقية والتي تعرف بالعلاقة بين المهام التنفيذية والتشريعية للحوكمة. ويرى براتاب ميهتا، مركز البحوث السياسية، أنه يمكن ضمان استدامة الهوية السياسية والاجتماعية، وذلك من خلال: الفصل بين السلطات، ومراجعة الحسابات الاجتماعية، وإنتاج المعلومات، واستراتيجيات السوق المفتوحة، وتخصيص الموارد من خلال القنوات الرسمية.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA region) has changed. The people-driven revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt are both good examples of successful mass-movements catalysed by social inequality and political oppression. Ultimately, however, the success of these revolutions cannot be measured by the speed at which former regimes were toppled, but by the shape of the future political and economic landscape of these countries. We cannot know what the legacy of the Arab spring will be. But there are lessons to be learnt from history, and the context in which other successful transitions to democracy have come about. The ERF’s 18th Annual Conference used its pre-conference workshop to asses where the Arab mass movements came from, how other countries have pulled off successful democratic transitions and what other lessons can be learnt. The road ahead is not clear Stephen Kosack and Evann Smith (both Harvard) introduced their on-going research that seeks to bring together huge amounts of data from mass movements in different countries of the world over the last 100-200 years, as a means to create a massive public data set. Relying on the data from an initial 10 countries they introduced a typology to shed some light on the Egyptian uprising in 2011. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DilsKCrqyNE&feature=plcp&context=C472b6a1VDvjVQa1PpcFOMCD_9CHm2qV9pBfJx6PZUKb3N0UGNi28%3D] Based on this, the Egyptian movement was classed as an ‘unorganised class-based protest movement’, which has a number of different characteristics, including the fact that it is rarely politically successful and when it is, it tends to remove political leaders, but struggles to remove regimes completely.
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="ERF 17th Annual Conference - Panel Plenary Session 3"][/caption] Mustapha Nabli (The Central Bank, Tunisia) began plenary 3 by stating “these have been wild months – our own Mediterranean tsunami”, but what next for new emerging democracies across the Arab region? Nabli outlined a number of key proponents that might ensure the sustainability of the democratic movements in Egypt and Tunisia. The first was the need for inclusive growth – dependent on the creation of better quality jobs that meet the expectations of increasingly educated young people. The second was the need to tackle systemic corruption, which would help remove economic and political uncertainty. A third point was the need for introducing good governance, stating “we might have democracy established, but we won’t reap the benefits unless the checks and balances associated with good governance are implemented”. There is almost certainly likely to be a decline in economic growth, and so economic stability is vital in ensuring a negative feedback loop does not emerge between politics and the economy, added Nabil. The events currently underway in Libya have had their effect on the psyche of Tarik Yousef (Dubai School of Government). He declared, that “for over 40 years I have possessed no sense of national pride, until now. Now I feel like telling the world I am Libyan – I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the young people who have brought about this awakening”.
The events currently underway in Libya have had their effect on the psyche of Tarik Yousef (Dubai School of Government) " for over 40 years I have possessed no sense of national pride, until now. Now I feel like telling the world I am Libyan – I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the young people who have brought about this awakening". Yousef outlined that the non-democratic regimes across the region have ultimately lost much of their legitimacy, and their ability to reinforce the non-democratic equilibrium. The anti-regime attitude that has emerged, fuelled by a loss of credibility is exemplified in the case of Mubarak who, although having been accepted as a dictator for twenty years, became increasingly disconnected from the voice of the Egyptian people. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mw7OqTyaVo8]
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="270" caption="ERF 17th Annual Conference - Panel Plenary Session 2"][/caption] The second plenary session of the ERF 17th Annual Conference addressed today the question “Do Institutional Constraints on Policymakers work?”. Given the nature of the political regimes in the Arab region and the recent political uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, this session appears to be very relevant to understand the importance of institutional reforms and their potential impact on policy. Ibrahim Elbadawi, Macroeconomic Research Department Director at the Economic Policy & Research Institute (EPRI) addressed the relation between fiscal rules, political checks and balances and democracy. In his presentation, he underlined how rule based policies are designed to protect and shield government fiscal policies from external economic shocks. However, the preliminary findings of his research suggest that, while democracy is very important for the MENA region and it has many virtues, it is also not enough to restrain governments. In this sense, checks and balances are needed as well. Gary Milante, World Bank, presented the main findings of the “World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security and Development”, to be published on April the 11th. The report looks at the effects of violence on development. This is the first report of this kind to address the interaction between the economic, political and security spheres. Milante pointed out that 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by violence, which is significantly diminishing their capacity for economic and social development. The report argues that institutions can help to develop resilience against violence in these environments, especially by helping in insolating and protecting people living in such societies.
At one point in U.S. history the food and drug association wanted to regulate cigarettes, but it was neither a food nor or a drug! In this instance, an absurd solution was found – using its jurisdiction over medical devices the association declared that cigarettes were a medical device for dispensing a dose of nicotine. This was the anecdote used by Lant Pritchett (Harvard University) to outline the asymmetry between policy mapping and formulation, and policy outcomes during the 2nd Plenary of the ERF Annual Conference. The use of an artificial fact, in this instance, to attain a policy implementation goal shows how the rules can easily be flouted. In this sense, Pritchett was keen to point out that ‘institutional’ structures are not the key to achieving successful transition to democracy, because institutions are ultimately governed by social norms. The strongest democracies in the world have different institutional structures – and there is no pre-defined model for success. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uG-UifkO-So] Referring to Egypt, he suggested that to achieve its democratic ambitions it must not get lost in institutional building. But instead focus on a small number of key areas that might help usher a change in social norms across society. In other words, technocratic reform doesn’t work, unless a social movement among the dominant forces in society takes effect.
The second plenary session of the ERF 17th Annual Conference provided participants with three different but equally interesting perspectives addressing the question: Do Institutional Constraints on Policy-makers Work? The session
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="ERF 17th Annual Conference - Panel Plenary Session 1"][/caption] Lack of democracy has arguably contributed to the lag in major aspects of Arab development, but as the Arab region contemplates its democratic future, on the back of recent political upheavals, a more pertinent question begins to emerge: “Does the Arab region need to follow a Western model of democratic transformation?” This was the question raised by Samir Makdisi (American University in Beirut) in the opening plenary of the ERF 17th Annual Conference. The model of ‘developed societies’, as outlined by John Joseph Wallis (University of Maryland), is underpinned by the connection between economics and politics, and their fundamental role together in the development process. Despite a move towards liberalised economies across the Arab region, political institutions have remained closed, non-representative and non-democratic, said Makdisi. The challenge for emerging democratic states, such as Tunisia and Egypt, is to shift from what Wallis calls limited access to open access social orders, and deciding on what pathway to take. If you go too quickly, there is a risk that the checks and balances provided by civil society and its institutions are not in place. But as Wallis pointed out, trying to fill this void with artificial checks would be deemed corrupt in developed societies and is perhaps not the best way to begin a democratic transition. Ricardo Hausmann (Harvard University) pointed out that transition will not be easy, democracy requires not only building civil society, but also reaching a ‘competitive equilibrium’ between economic and political competition. In many Western democracies, institutions, laws and public participation co-evolved over time. This evolution is key to providing what Hausmann calls the “fitness-function”. This allows complex ‘self-organising’ systems to interact with their environment, creating a feedback-loop, and allowing institutions to adapt to different contexts.
In plenary session I « Democracy (Open Society) and Economic Development: The Politics of Policymaking”, Ricardo Hausmann, Director of the Centre of International Development (CID) & Professor of the Practice of Economic Development at Harvard University, addressed the following question: “Economic Development and Politics: Where is the Connection?” Reflecting on this, Hausmann looked at the existing asymmetry between the economy, which has an incredible ability to figure out its problems and sort itself out, and the political system. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eMRO0SzGGI] To identify the type of government required for development, Hausmann referred to Adam Smith: "Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things."